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House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

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The House resumed from May 5 consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-12, an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today on Bill C-12, the new Quarantine Act. We are updating the Quarantine Act because the piece of legislation we are working with is absolutely antiquated. It has not been significantly modernized since 1872.

The purpose of the Quarantine Act is very clear and straightforward. It offers protection to the Canadian public at our border points of entry by authorizing the use of public health measures to prevent communicable diseases from entering the country and spreading throughout the population. Our recent experience with SARS has not been forgotten. With the global threat of avian influenza and the heightened risk of a human pandemic, health experts and the public are acutely aware that new diseases can swiftly emerge and change in such a manner that all governments require a modern set of tools at their disposal to ensure rapid and decisive action.

Many of us will remember the important work undertaken by Dr. David Naylor, chair of the national advisory committee on SARS and public health. The newly proposed Quarantine Act reflects action taken by this government in a direct response to the recommendations put forth in the Naylor report and later echoed by the Senate committee.

In a modern era, diseases do not arrive by boat on transatlantic voyages. They arrive by plane and present themselves at our doorsteps within hours. By moving forward this important piece of public health protection legislation, the Government of Canada will have the authority to address immediate concerns related to global disease transmission, a cross-border issue of growing importance.

As members may recall, Bill C-36 was the first attempt to modernize the Quarantine Act. The bill was introduced in the last parliamentary session on May 12, 2004, but died on the order paper when the election was called.

Last fall, Bill C-12 was reintroduced. This revised bill reflected the comments of many stakeholders including provincial and territorial public health experts. After an extensive review process, including witness testimony and amendments adopted by the Standing Committee on Health, the bill was passed by the House of Commons on December 10, 2004.

Recently, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology underwent a similar examination process of Bill C-12. Amendments were adopted by committee members specifically related to the tabling of quarantine regulations. The House committee on health had asked that these regulations be tabled, so that it could review them. The Senate saw that amendment in the bill and decided that it would like to see the regulations as well.

If the House concurs today in the proposed amendments, the tabling of regulations under Bill C-12 will reflect the role of the Senate of Canada by reinforcing the equivalent authority of this chamber in the parliamentary legislative process.

Canadians want protection. They expect government to draw upon an array of modern tools to manage future risks to public health. The revised Quarantine Act before us complements provincial and territorial public health legislation, for each jurisdiction is responsible for maintaining public health.

The federal Quarantine Act will operate as the first line of defence. It will play a mitigating role in protecting the health of Canadians from the importation of disease. The importance of jurisdictions working together is paramount when protecting public health, even more so when health threats emerge. The complementary legislative design of Bill C-12 helps to create a web of protection for Canadians.

Indeed, we do not need another health crisis to reinforce the critical importance of working in concert with our provincial and territorial partners.

After the SARS crisis, the Government of Canada moved immediately to strengthen public health. This act would become an important instrument in carrying out that commitment for it would add another tool in the pan-Canadian toolbox for public health. The newly created Public Health Agency of Canada and the appointment of the Chief Public Health Officer will serve in the management of any new infectious disease outbreak.

It is not only our obligation to Canadians that we need to consider. Currently, the World Health Organization is undertaking revisions to the international health regulations. Canada is a major player in that process.

Bill C-12, our new Quarantine Act, complements this effort. It is compatible with global public health efforts. This new legislation appropriately balances individual rights and freedoms in the protection of the public good. In a globalized world, it reflects the increased complexity in public health, making linkages with other authorities to support a coordinated response capacity, and including local and provincial partners, customs officials, the RCMP and the World Health Organization.

Revisions to Bill C-12 would ensure better communication, collaboration and cooperation among partners, as well as better clarity about who does what when. It would build on the expertise and the strengths already in place in the disease management spectrum to ensure that Canadians are safeguarded by a seamless public health system throughout this country.

Once enacted, our new Quarantine Act would ensure that the Government of Canada has the proper legislative tools to respond rapidly and effectively in the event of our next public health crisis.

In the spirit of collaboration, it is my wish that House members demonstrate ongoing support for the work and contributions made toward strengthening this bill on behalf of the Standing Committee on Health of this House and the Senate of Canada.

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10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite spoke to us about quarantine, customs, the RCMP and border patrol officers. I have a question for her. If we remove RCMP officers from border patrol, if there is only one person assigned to customs duties and we want to protect Canadians by applying quarantine in the event that people cross the border with the flu or other diseases, what can we do to inspect these people if they just go straight across the border, as is often the case?

How can we have control, put people in quarantine or do anything involving quarantine if there are no more police officers, nothing or no one to stop these people at the border?

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Madam Speaker, the Quarantine Act addresses the largest group of people coming into this country. That takes place at our airports. Air travel is another factor where people arrive at our border quite ill or on the verge of becoming quite ill. The main measures of this bill would be taken at airports.

However, at other border crossing points, the usual measures would apply and there are both provincial and municipal police forces that can do whatever job the RCMP used to do. I do not believe that RCMP officers were actually picking people out of cars and saying, “You look sick. You had better go into quarantine”. I think that would be a misuse of their time. I think it is creating a myth to suggest they used to do that at all.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention of the hon. member for Oakville, who is the chair of the Standing Committee on Health and has led parliamentarians through extraordinarily important legislation over the last number of years.

It is also important to note that this is a very significant bill, particularly to people in Ontario, where the SARS incident had such an enormous impact. Many people died and many others were ill. Entire communities were brought to a total halt. I know that the Ontario members of Parliament were particularly concerned about the procedures, because during the SARS epidemic we did not know how to deal with those kinds of things.

In fact, as subsequent inquires found, a number of things were not done as well as they could have been, but we learned from them. Part of this process is to learn from things that did not go as well as they should have. It is one of the reasons why the Quarantine Act has not been updated since 1872 or something like that, which I think the member mentioned.

It would be useful to have the member provide a bit of insight about some of the matters related to the SARS epidemic. It is a very good example of why this particular act should go forward and be passed by Parliament.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my colleague. While he is not a formal member of the health committee, he tries to attend frequently to keep himself updated.

The first thing I would like to say about this bill is that if there is any one issue in the House that should not be subject to partisan politics, it is the provision of public health measures in this new world that we live in. It is to be hoped that all members here present today will support this bill in order that the provisions of it can be put in place, because basically they are there to protect the health of Canadians.

My colleague is correct in saying that those of us who are from the metropolitan area of Toronto and close to the Pearson International Airport were tremendously struck by the rippling impacts of SARS. Most of us knew at least one family, perhaps the family of a health care worker, that had been quarantined over a period of time, and we knew about the impact that had on the other members of the family, all as a matter of protection for the wider community and a measure that we agreed with.

Once a disease like this gets started, the ripple effects on personal, family and children's lives and on the economy make it a far bigger thing than one thinks it is going to be when one first hears of it. That is why we were so delighted to have the appointment of a new Minister of State for Public Health, the member for St. Paul's, and the acquisition of a chief public health officer to coordinate these efforts across the country. I invite all members to go to their offices in suburban Ottawa. They are most impressive to see and will reassure members about their role as parliamentarians in protecting the public health of Canadians.

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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to the member for her comments this morning and I am glad that the NDP is supporting this bill, because it is an important update to our quarantine laws. I am glad that the New Democrats are on board with this. I have one question.

There were some concerns raised at committee, one of which was the whole question of screening officers and the extra duties that this is going to put onto our customs officers, who are already required to enforce the Customs Act and have various security concerns they have to take care of, as well as agricultural concerns. Now we are adding a sort of medical screening to that.

I am wondering if the minister could comment on overloading our customs officers or what extra training might be available to them to actually carry out this important function.

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, there was some discussion about that, but we were reassured that customs officers would not be doing any in depth medical evaluation. It will be a simple kind of screening and they will have the training to prepare them to do that. None of us want to burden these very important officials of the Government of Canada with more work than they can handle. None of us want to slow down the customs process for travellers and tourists, et cetera. They will simply be a sort of first line and adequate medical personnel will be available to do any evaluation that needs to be done.

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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the question I have for the hon. member has to do with compensation. It was a big issue at committee.

There was a whole range of issues that came up regarding space at airports, whereby the airport authorities would have to give up space for public screening in an emergency without compensation, providing fixtures and a whole range of other things. These airports have very expensive leases with the government. Also, other facilities could be taken over without compensation. A curling rink or an arena could be taken over for public health measures without compensation. It is at the discretion of the minister to compensate.

Unfortunately, because of royal recommendation, the committee was not allowed to accept amendments that would cost the government money. Is the member satisfied that the public's interest will be protected and that private citizens' and corporate interests will be protected by the minister?

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2005 / 10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the legislative design of Bill C-12 supports a prudent approach consistent with responsible government spending, that is, to determine an appropriate level of compensation only after an incident or an outbreak. It does provide the flexibility to provide compensation to industry in the event that quarantine facilities are required to isolate at risk travellers.

It does not speak directly to the issue of compensation for travellers detained under quarantine powers, but the Government of Canada could provide assistance to travellers who are inconvenienced by such measures.

In the event of a public health crisis, the government has the ability to, first, assess the situation and determine the need for an appropriate level of compensation based on the merits of each case, and then determine the possible means of compensation.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this morning we are debating the Senate amendments to Bill C-12. I have had an opportunity to review the prior debates to try to ascertain some of the concerns of members. I see in the House this morning a number of members as well as the previous speaker who have all worked on this legislation.

The member for Oakville said something that I think is worth reflecting on. It is that these health issues transcend partisan interests. I think all members would agree that when it comes to the matter of public safety and public health it is the number one priority of Canadians and certainly of the Parliament of Canada.

I also want to say I am delighted that we are back debating important legislation, which has progressed for some time. As we know, there is much speculation about an election and what the consequences might be. Most are political, but in the reality for Canadians we are talking about the work of Parliament over the past months.

We have a large number of bills, much legislation and other initiatives at various stages throughout the legislative system. I am aware of a number of them. One is even one of my own initiatives on fetal alcohol syndrome. An election call would kill all these bills and the other legislation, as well as an enormous amount of work done by I believe some very talented people in the committee and legislative system and by parliamentarians at large. I just want Canadians to know that we are trying very hard to have important legislation passed in this place as quickly as possible because it is in the best interests of Canadians.

Bill C-12 is an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases. This enactment repeals and replaces the existing Quarantine Act, which has not been modernized since 1872. The purpose is to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases in Canada.

It is applicable to persons in conveyances arriving in or in the process of departing Canada. It provides measures for the screening, health assessment and medical examination of travellers to determine if they have communicable diseases and measures for preventing the spread of communicable diseases, including referral to the public health authorities, detention, treatment and disinfestation. The provisions for the administrative oversight of the detention of travellers are also included in the bill.

It provides for additional measures such as the inspection and cleansing of conveyances and cargo to ensure that they are not a source of communicable diseases. It imposes controls on the import and export of cadavers, body parts and other human remains.

It contains provisions for the collection and disclosure of personal information if it is necessary to prevent the spread of communicable disease and, under certain circumstances, for law enforcement purposes. It also provides the Minister of Health with interim order powers in the case of public health emergencies and enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with the act.

Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, but there seems to be a fair bit of noise in the House right now.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Speaker

There are perhaps a lot of questions for the hon. member from Mississauga, but they are going to have to wait until the end of his speech.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

When we look at the summary of the legislation, we realize that this particular bill touches on a lot of areas on which there has been extensive debate in this place. In fact, we are even talking about charter rights, on which we have had a great deal of debate in this place, and the various provisions, the rights and freedoms of the--

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the behaviour by the Bloc Québécois has been going on for some sitting days and it is quite disruptive to the operations of the House.

The particular provisions within the bill to do with rights of individuals will be sensitive issues to a number of members who have been active in the aspect of basic human rights and the rights and freedoms of the individual. When we consider the conflicting interests here, the rights of the individual and the responsibility of the health authorities to protect the health and well-being of Canadians, it does raise some important questions about whether there is a demonstrably justified infringement on the rights of the individual.

I recognize there are some conflicting interests here, but members know that there is a responsibility of discharging the health measures provided by the Quarantine Act to ensure the health and well-being of all Canadians. We had the example with SARS. We now have discovered and learned that the disease is a communicable one. Also, some evidence shows that it could be transmitted through the air.

Let me make a few other comments on the implications of the bill and its scope.

First, because the bill has not been modernized for many years, we have to take into account, as legislators, that over time things change. There are emerging and re-emerging health threats and SARS is certainly one example. The most important part of this is that these communicable diseases do not respect borders. It is much like pollution. For instance, we know that in the 401 corridor of Ontario, going from Windsor down to Toronto, the major source of pollution, of poor air quality and particulate matter, comes from the Ohio Valley in the United States, which is densely populated with coal-fired hydrogenerating stations.

Similarly, we have a situation where problems in Canada are not necessarily domestically sourced. Taiwan had a very similar problem with regard to people coming into Taiwan from mainland China.

Countries have to take important steps to ensure that we take all the defensive measures necessary and the best possible course to ensure that communicable diseases do not become a serious problem as they have in the past, particularly with SARS.

The advances in technology and rapid air travel is now a reality in the daily lives of Canadians. It replaces the long days that people used to travel on ships or by rail. The new age of jet travel has paved the way for increased population mobility. This is a very important issue. There are so many people coming and going. We are not just talking about people who are coming to visit Canada. We are talking also about Canadians who have travelled abroad in some affected areas and who come back. It is important that we take all those precautions as well. This does not just affect people who are visiting our country but also those who are returning from trips abroad, for whatever reason. An enormous number of people travel through the airports of our country.

Members may recall when the mad cow crisis was at its peak, travellers coming to Canada had to walk on a mat to disinfect their shoes. We were not sure whether they may have somehow picked up some materials that may have been a threat to the agriculture industry. This is yet another instance where defensive measures are extremely important.

We are told by experts that a serious communicable disease can spread to any part of the world within 24 hours. We know some of the impacts of these diseases, but we do not know anything about them. SARS was an excellent example. When it hit, we did not know what it was. We did not know how it acted. We did not know how it was transmitted. What we did know was that a large number of people with a common bond of association, whether it be from a nursing home or a hospital ward, all of had the indicators that there was the starting of an epidemic.

It required the immediate mobilization of a large number of people. It goes without saying that we are very grateful to the health care providers, the doctors and the nurses and all the other important health care providers, who literally put themselves in harm's way to help those who were afflicted by these diseases, without knowing. It is much like firefighters. Firefighters run in while others flee to save themselves. We saw that in 9/11.

Let us not forget the importance to the caregivers who tried their very best under situations of very little information on how to deal with it.

The new reality regarding the health of immigrants is becoming a growing transborder problem as well. Members of Parliament have an important responsibility in their ridings to deal with people who are being sponsored by constituents to come to Canada, either to obtain landed status and perhaps ultimately to become citizens.

We all know the health requirements to enter Canada are extremely rigorous as well. It is important that they be enforced. This is also a very important issue because of the transborder problem.

This entire situation has many health ramifications. This is one reason why we now have a public health representation in the cabinet. We also have the chief public health officer, both of whom have important roles to play in addressing any future disease outbreaks, such as SARS. We also have established a centre in Winnipeg similar to the Atlanta centres for disease control. Things are happening. Bill C-12 is part of that process.

The existing health protection system has served the interest of Canadians well. Obviously we have to update our laws to take into account the new reality of the mobility of our own population and the expanding numbers of people who are visiting Canada from other lands. It means that the policy and procedures we use in Canada must reflect and be updated to reflect this new reality.

The member for Oakville previously mentioned that Dr. David Naylor prepared the main report on this. The report contained some very important recommendations. Those recommendations have been well taken into account, not only in this legislation, but in other activities.

I also want to comment on a couple of other aspects. Bill C-12 serves to modernize the Quarantine Act, but it is only one of the tools in our health tool box. As I indicated, we now have the public health agency with the appointment of Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's first chief public health officer, and the Canadian pandemic influenza plan. All are essential elements in the government's strategy for strengthening Canada's public health system.

As I indicated, the existing federal powers under the Quarantine Act are basically outdated. That is the reason why this legislation needs to be passed by Parliament. I hope the legislation will have the support of all hon. members in this place.

That is why we are moving forward quickly with the legislation. It will give the government the means to cope with and control disease outbreaks and ensure better communication, collaboration and cooperation among public health partners. This aspect was very evident during the SARS outbreak. There were more questions and answers, as can be appreciated, and there was a lack of coordination of the public health bodies across the country. Although there were regular press conferences to assure the public, the public also had an important need to know about how they could safeguard themselves.

In those types of serious circumstances we all need to be well informed so we can be part of the preventative measures to ensure a communicable disease outbreak does not spread any further and is in fact wrestled to the ground. The collaboration and cooperation that were necessary was demonstrated even within the government departments. An issue such as SARS touched virtually every department.

I recall the bulletin that came out informing the public about SARS and suggesting that if people had some questions or wanted further information they could go to a website or two but there was no website or two. There were about 21 different website addresses and they were all to different areas of the government, all of which, in their own way, had a reference to SARS as it related to their department.

With the creation of this new cabinet post, that will not happen any more. There will be a central communications point in which important information on a comprehensive basis can be communicated to all stakeholders, all interested parties, Canadians, caregivers and others who may be affected or involved in this.

The scope of the new act is limited to ensuring that serious communicable diseases are prevented from entering Canada or being spread to other countries. It will also mitigate the risk of future threats to public health at home and beyond, to our international partners.

Because of our experience in the SARS epidemic, Canada continues to be a leader in terms of being a model for other countries in terms of addressing matters such as this. I know the World Health Organization has taken great interest as have other countries. We have also had many visitations to Canada with regard to the way in which we have set things up.

With the proposed changes to the Quarantine Act, which I am sure will be passed by this place, I think Canada will finish the loop in terms of providing the best possible protection and prevention for Canadians as it relates to communicable diseases.

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the speech by my colleague from Mississauga South. I do not know whether he would agree with me in terms of a global strategy perspective. Does he agree that there needs to be support for the Bloc Québécois position whereby the Canadian government must commit to increasing its international aid immediately, especially to Africa, in order to reach the 0.7% of GDP level, as several European countries have already done? This would help African countries fight highly infectious diseases more effectively, diseases that could easily be transmitted here, as he so skilfully illustrated in his speech.

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the Prime Minister has been, as was the previous prime minister, well involved in the Africa issue and has made commitments very similar to what the Bloc has now adopted. I might remind the member that yesterday the Prime Minister again updated the House with regard to our commitment to Africa.

In regard to the member's question, I am glad the Bloc Québécois, in this regard, agrees with the Government of Canada.

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10:45 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, a number of issues came up during debate in committee on this that caused some of us concern and I will give the House a couple of examples.

In clause 22(1), with respect to medical examination, it states:

If a quarantine officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a traveller has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, or has recently been in close proximity to a person who has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, the officer may require the traveller to undergo a[n] [investigation].

What concerned many of us were the “or”s. It is not that an individual has a disease but that the person may have been near somebody who might have had something.

Clause 28.1 states that beyond examination an individual could be detained if:

(d) the quarantine officer has reasonable grounds to believe

(i) has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, or has recently been in close proximity to a person who has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors,

Something that is of more concern is clause 26 which states:

If a quarantine officer, after the medical examination of a traveller, has reasonable grounds to believe that the traveller has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, or has recently been in close proximity to a person who has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, the quarantine officer may order the traveller to comply with treatment or any other measure for preventing the introduction and spread of the communicable disease.

I do not think anyone is overly concerned about someone having to be examined in order to contain the disease. However, after having been examined and no evidence is found that someone is sick, the person can still be compelled to be quarantined for up to a week. What troubles me is that after a week, if in the officer's opinion the individual still might be a threat, the individual can be detained further even if there is no sign of the disease. The person can also be compelled to have treatment or some other preventative measure just because they were near someone who had a disease.

Does the member agree with forcing an individual to have treatment just because an officer thinks the individual has been near someone who might have a disease but the individual shows no symptoms of the disease?

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is certainly the big question that has been raised by a number of members. It has a great deal to do with the rights of the individual and Canadians at large covered under the charter and the responsibilities of a government and health authorities to protect us against something that the consequences of which could be enormous. The consequence could be a pandemic that could kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people if not checked and dealt with at its early stages.

When the member read from clause 22, he may have misspoke himself when he said that it would require a traveller to undergo an investigation. The bill in fact states “medical examination”.

If we are talking about a quarantine officer, a medical officer, a doctor, a nurse or whoever is going to be responsible for making these assessments, I do not believe they are there to do harm. They are properly training and are there to protect Canadians. They will not detain someone for some personal whim, personal bias or whatever it might be.

In clause 26, the member said, “if the quarantine officer has grounds to believe”. This is not a matter of frivolous grounds. In a matter of emergency someone has to make some serious decisions and we first need to ensure that those who are put in those positions of authority have the tools to do these things, are properly trained and are acting in the best interests of Canadians.

The member kind of asked the questions almost in the context of what if we get somebody who maybe is not doing things in good faith and is just doing it to somehow disrupt the rights and freedoms of individuals, of travellers or to be invasive.

Medical examination is one thing but a medical examination does not tell us where the person has been, who the person has seen and in which place where there were problems has the person been. Those things are not part of a medical examination. A medical examination is with regard to that individual and the individual's own condition.

If there is some basis for looking at people's travel documents, or whatever it might be, and it would be helpful to get information to do an investigation, then I would say that it is a proper thing to do and a responsible thing to do because individuals themselves coming into a country who have gone through a medical examination may not even know what exactly has been going on, what the problem is, what the disease is or what causes it. There is an awful lot of information, much of which is not readily available through simply the process of a individual screening or maybe some sort of a medical exam.

This is a very good example of where parliamentarians often get into the situation where we have conflicting interests, and sometimes people will describe it as the lesser of evils, but in this particular case the act is prescribing the tools to be used by properly trained medical professionals who are prepared to take on the responsibility and to discharge that greater responsibility, which is to protect public health. It is in the best interest of not only that individual, it is also is in the best interest of the country at large, which is the greater question. We do make these tough decisions. In this regard I would say that the provisions, in my opinion, within Bill C-12 are fair and reasonable.

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10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, today's debate is not on the bill, but rather on the Senate amendment. As a result, the proposed regulations would be considered by the appropriate committee not only of the House of Commons but also of the Senate. This is the first point I want to address and one I find completely absurd.

Having the appropriate committee of the House take the time to examine the bill and the regulations is justifiable. But, in my opinion, having a Senate committee duplicate the work of the House is completely absurd. It is appropriate for the House and its committees to intervene in a debate on proposed legislation. Consequently, the Bloc Québécois cannot support the Senate's amendment.

Yesterday, my colleague from Peterborough spoke on this bill, which concerns the Quarantine Act. Even if this bill is limited solely to human beings, he drew a comparison between this bill and what happened during the mad cow crisis.

Over the past century, travel has undergone such an enormous and rapid evolution that the spread of communicable diseases is a constant threat. Insofar as possible, this bill seeks to rectify this situation through the imposition of quarantines and other measures to prevent, to the greatest extent possible, the introduction of communicable diseases into Quebec and Canada.

I would not call this is a pipe dream, although it is extremely difficult to control such diseases, even with the proposed measures. At best, it is almost a pipe dream.

I want to give the very concrete example of invasive alien species. Over the past 25 or 30 years, we have seen our waterways invaded by numerous alien species, which are destroying our environment and our resources. Attempts to control such invasive alien species have been unsuccessful.

Now, we have before us a bill that seeks to prevent the introduction of communicable diseases so as to prevent their spread among the general public.

I listened to the question put by my colleague from Laval. I think she is absolutely right. Of course a bill has to be passed. However, as a developed country, we would have to invest more in public health and hygiene in developing countries where there is great potential for communicable diseases to originate and develop. As my colleague for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord says, an effort has to be made initially to solve the problem at the source. And so investment in public health is needed.

Last night, I watched a report on Médecins sans frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, and its work in a central African country. This organization has almost replaced the institutions that should be supported by the government. That is exactly what these people were saying. Extremely dangerous situations are allowed to develop. The problem of AIDS in Africa, for example, exemplifies this eloquently.

In the early 1970s, this previously unknown disease was discovered to be spreading like wildfire around the world, because no one knew how to predict or prevent its virulent spread. Today, in some countries of Africa, over 50% of the population is infected with the AIDS virus, and a major catastrophe is brewing.

Apparently, other diseases are becoming more common with the overuse of antibiotics. The effect, especially in developed northern countries, is that people's immune systems become much more sensitive and therefore more vulnerable to diseases of this type. Pandemics can spread very quickly in our part of the world.

We support the bill in principle, and of course the establishment of protective measures. However, they must be taken with all of the provinces, which are responsible for health care and social services. This is extremely important.

Systems have to be linked in order to have interventions coordinated and provincial jurisdictions respected. Each province is responsible for its health care system. Therefore they must all be involved in coordinating the whole—

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11 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member in the middle of his speech. There are 13 minutes remaining for him to finish his remarks after oral question period, or when the bill comes before the House once again.

We will now move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Ottawa South.

Canadian Association of Research LibrariesStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to offer congratulations to Ms. Leslie Weir of the University of Ottawa. Ms. Weir has been the chief librarian at the University of Ottawa since 2003. She is widely admired in the profession as an innovator in providing electronic information to the teaching and research community that the University of Ottawa serves.

In April of this year Ms. Weir was elected vice-president and president-elect of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. She will serve as president from 2007 to 2009. This association is the leadership organization of Canadian research librarianship. Its members are the 27 major academic research libraries across Canada, Library and Archives Canada, the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, and the Library of Parliament.

I ask all members to join me in congratulating Leslie Weir for the considerable honour of her election as president of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries.

Samuel Ian SerightStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this moment to reflect on the life of one of my fine constituents who recently passed away after a life well lived.

Mr. Samuel Ian Seright was a man who lived to set an example for all of us. He cared a great deal for his community, his province and his country. He was often referred to as the unofficial mayor of Calgary East.

I had the privilege of presenting Ian with the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal not long ago, a small reward for his countless years of service to others. Ian loved life and enjoyed the simple things. Ian took pride in attending community events even after his wife died. Ian did not just stand by and watch his community change; he celebrated the change and embraced new people.

I remember Ian saying in response to the growing demographic change in his community, “It changed, but all of us here mix really well. It's the spirit of the area”.

We will miss him but can take a great lesson from his life.

New Horizons for SeniorsStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, on April 29 I was pleased to join with my colleague, the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers in announcing additional funding for seniors programs under the New Horizons for Seniors program.

Two community service agencies within my riding of Davenport received funding under this excellent program. Both St. Christopher House and the Working Women Community Centre were recipients of funding under new horizons. Once again the Government of Canada has demonstrated its strong commitment to seniors across Canada.

I congratulate both St. Christopher House and the Working Women Community Centre for their successful grant applications and for the outstanding work they do within the community of Davenport each and every day.